Time to let Scotland's referees defend themselves
"You can call it a lie if you wish. The view of the SFA referee committee was he acted on the spur of the moment. His head was spinning when he came off and he was gutted with himself for making the decision."
Whether you accept Scottish Football Association chief executive Stewart Regan's explanation of ref Dougie McDonald's behaviour in first awarding then denying Celtic a penalty at Tannadice, and the ref's subsequent explanation of events, will depend on your depth of understanding and compassion for the frailties of the human condition known as, well, being human.
It depends whether you subscribe to the conspiracy or cock up theory in life. Whether you believe that aliens inhabit the planet disguised as our political leaders.
Dougie McDonald's reputation may never recover, yet it was all entirely preventable if he'd just been allowed to speak openly after the match.
Yes, his conduct would have been analysed and criticised, but there would have been much less opportunity for conspiracy theories to run amok as they have done in the weeks since the game.
Surely now referees have to be given a voice or take one for themselves.
Their desire to escape some of the vicious criticism of their work is perfectly understandable. But, if that hope is, as I suspect, ultimately futile then at least they might as well have the right of reply.
In a world of rolling 24-hour news, Facebook, http://twitter.com/, fans' websites and a generally voracious appetite by the public to wallow in others' discomfort, there is little prospect of referees getting a better press anytime soon.
Refs are under immense pressure: some can handle it, some cannot. Bemoaning a lack of respect, though, will not put that genie back in the bottle.
Social habits have altered and deference to authority was one of the first casualties.
It seems some folk would like us to return to the days when our betters knew better than us.
There was a day when ministers and priests could put the fear of death into the citizenry for missing the Kirk or mass, but those days have faded into Scotland's authoritarian past.
So the chances of mere referees being able to turn the clocks back to gentler times are slim to none.
Ideally, self-restraint all round would be the solution, but voluntary codes of conduct just don't work.
The original managers' embargo on criticising refs lasted around two matches as I recall.
Some people have blamed the media for asking questions of managers too soon after the game, but it's not too much communication that is at the root of the problem - it is the very opposite: too little communication.
In the Dougie McDonald affair, it's taken the SFA two weeks to communicate an explanation that would have taken five minutes after the game.
Dougie made a mistake in a game played at a million miles an hour, but the biggest mistake is the rule that stopped him explaining that to the fans via the media after the match.
Now, a fortnight has gone by allowing conspiracy theorists a field day.
There is now talk of the refs' association working with the SFA to develop a respect initiative.
But respect should not be automatically conferred on anyone. Fred Goodwin and others in the banking industry proved that.
Respect has to be earned and maintained through openness and transparency.
If referees are allowed to explain their decisions, say after half an hour of a cooling off period following games, there might still be disagreement, but at least the reasoning for a decision will be clear.
It has been pointed out that the Laws of the Game simply state that decisions are made "in the referee's opinion".
That is right and proper, but that opinion could and should be clarified. "In my opinion, it was a penalty because the defender pushed the striker", etc.
Most senior refs are eloquent and articulate. If they feel they are getting a raw deal, the best way to deal with it is to communicate.
It really is now time to let the refs have their say.